WARICK Meldrum is a purist’s nightmare. The skilled-up larrikin is a massive fan of bolting turbocharged Barra donks between the rails of GM rides, which tends to work up certain keyboard warriors into full-blown hissy fits.
This article was first published in the April 2019 issue of Street Machine
Warick’s first offense was successfully campaigning his now 10.0-second Barra-powered VP Commodore at the 2017 Street Machine Drag Challenge. But then he upped the game by chucking the whole Barra shebang from that car into his dream ride: a 1967 SS Camaro.
Warick grabbed the keys to the factory, vinyl-roofed SS in April 2018. “I really wanted to do Drag Challenge 2018 in my Camaro, but I didn’t have an engine and transmission that was up to the task other than the Barra driveline. So it just made sense to combine the two,” he explains. “Plus, my mates and I reckoned that it’d be a hilarious combination that would upset the internet again – that made my decision pretty easy!”
But it’s one thing to slide in the controversial turbo Ford six-cylinder for shits ’n’ giggles; fitting it properly and getting it running is another issue entirely.
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“The timeframe was a little aggressive, with some serious all-nighters to get it done,” Warick explains. “On 20 August I said to my wife Casey: ‘I’m going into the shed and I’ll see you after Drag Challenge.’ And that is pretty much what happened!”
Every weeknight, Warick would turn spanners and power the grinder from 9pm until 3am, with a few weekend stints for good measure. So, let’s just say his neighbours no longer give him a friendly wave.
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A triangulated four-link rear, upgraded steering, Hotchkis front springs and Viking coil-overs all ’round give the Camaro tighter handling, while a combo of C5 Corvette and HSV discs slow it down from 130mph passes
Warick is a mechanic and auto-electrician by trade, but he’s self-taught at panel and paint. During those frantic two months, he bare-metalled the Camaro, before drowning it in Cortez Silver – twice. “I was set to repair a small rust spot under the edge of the vinyl roof, but the vinyl was that brittle that I had to remove it all,” he says. “I then realised that I wasn’t happy with the entire paintjob. So I sprayed the Cortez Silver in my shed, but got crap stuck in the paint. I had to rub it all back again, and then hired a booth for the respray.”
Street Pro II wheels finish off the silver Barra Camaro nicely, with tall ’n’ skinny 17x4.5s up front, and fat ’n’ low 15x8s wrapped in M/T ET Streets under the bum
Next, the SS was relieved of its 350ci/TH350/10-bolt powertrain, before the Ford motor was pulled from Warick’s VP Commodore and wedged into one of America’s finest muscle cars.
The Barra combo consists of a Warick-built FG XR6 Turbo donk, paired with factory crank, cams and head, and finished with a horde of sturdy components such as ARP bolts and studs, Spool conrods and Ross Racing forged pistons. A Cummins Holset HX40 turbo fed 22psi into the mill at Drag Challenge via the stock manifold.
Bolted behind the custom Dellow bellhousing is the proven set-up of a TH400 with transbrake and an SDE 3500rpm converter. The third member is a Commodore BorgWarner with a full spool, 3.45s and 31-spline axles.
The Barra actually looks right at home in the Camaro. “I built the driveline to be strong and reliable for Drag Challenge, and so far it has handled the abuse,” Warick says. “It runs flex-fuel, but I used 98-octane during the event as the car wasn’t tech-inspected”
Only a few minor adjustments were required for fitment. “Due to the engine height it was difficult to get the driveline angles correct,” Warick explains. “I had to modify part of the sump to clear the steering arms, and also rework the subframe so as not to foul with the oil pick-up location.” Haltech’s Elite Pro Plug-in ECU for Barra donks and closed-loop electronic boost control were the only other enhancements.
Warick first fired up the Barra Camaro a few weeks out from Drag Challenge, then spent the entire lead-up ironing out bugs; he was still tuning it at 3am on Monday of Day One.
“I’m stoked, the car went unreal on Drag Challenge,” he says. “I got in it, did the whole event and got out of it, only checking the oil and water – that was it.” With zero track time beforehand, it took three days of dialling in, but Warick finally sussed the tune at the end of Day Three. “I ran it at Swan Hill the next day and went 10.30@130mph on PULP, and ran similar on Friday,” he says happily.
“It’s such a great feeling to build an entire car yourself then hand in that final timeslip at the end of Drag Challenge. It’s by far the best car event in Australia and the best thing I’ve done in any of my cars.”
Since Drag Challenge, Warick has whacked the Camaro on ethanol and turned up the wick to 30psi, but we can’t tell you if it went any quicker. “I ran it at Heathcote and snapped the diff on the first run,” he says. “I went home on the rear of a tow truck and haven’t been back since.”
Inside is mostly stock mid-60s muscle, with the minor additions of a Haltech IQ3 Street Dash and Billet Specialties Street Lite tiller. “Haltech was great in helping me out with a new Barra Elite Pro Plug-in ECU and IQ3 Street Dash,” Warick says. “It’s always a challenge for DIY-ers in setting up new ECUs and tuning, but Haltech’s technical support is second to none”
With the diff fixed, it’s now a matter of what’s next for this infamous driveline. “I only built the Barra-powered Camaro to do Drag Challenge, so everyone can just calm down now,” Warick laughs. “I never had any intention on keeping it that way, and the Camaro should be back to its V8 roots by the time everyone is reading this. But I am interested to see if anyone else will do this conversion to their first-gen Camaro, or if I’ll go down in history as the only one with such a good sense of humour!”
However, a new set of haters might need to get their crayons poised: “I just bought a VF Valiant rolling shell, and the driveline is going into that. If I make it to Drag Challenge this year then I would’ve competed three times in three different cars that all ran the same driveline,” Warick says. “The combination is capable of so much more, which is why the Valiant will have all of the ANDRA safety gear and run E85. That way I can really lean on it!”
ACING DRAG CHALLENGE
We had a great video interview with Warick at Drag Challenge 2018, where he suggests that prospective DC entrants give themselves 12 months to build their car and get it done three months before the event to allow for plenty of testing. Does he heed his own advice? “That was for other people – not for me,” he laughs. “I hope to give myself a head-start for this year, as it’ll be a bit more serious, being ’caged. I hope I’ll get time to get it tech-inspected and test it first.”
1967 CAMARO SS
Paint: Cortez Silver
Brand: Ford Barra FG XR6 Turbo 4.0L
Manifold: FG Ford Turbo
Turbo: Cummins Holset HX40
ECU: Haltech Barra Elite Pro Plug-in
Pistons: Ross Racing forged
Crank: Factory; ACL Race Series bearings
Oil pump: Atomic; modified sump
Fuel system: Bosch 1650cc injectors, Carter Black pump, surge tank, dual Bosch 044s
Cooling: Camaro radiator, Saab thermos, Chinese-made 3in-core intercooler
Exhaust: 3½in dump, 3in mandrel-bent system
Trans: TH400, manualised, reverse-pattern, transbrake
Converter: SDE 3500rpm
Tailshaft: 3in,1330 unis
Bellhousing: Dellow Conversions
Diff: Commodore BorgWarner, full spool, 3.45:1 gears, 31-spline billet axles, 78 Series flange
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Hotchkis springs, Koni adjustable shocks
Rear: Viking coil-overs, triangulated four-link
Steering: Strange close-ratio box
Brakes: CPP C5 Corvette 330mm discs and calipers (f), HSV 285mm discs and PBR calipers (r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
wheels & tyres
Rims: Street Pro II Convo; 17x4.5 (f), 15x8 (r)
Rubber: M/T Sportsman S/R (f), M/T ET Street SS (r)
Some great Aussie businesses for all their help – SDE Converters, Bridgestone Select at Mornington, Tuff Mounts and Haltech; John Urquieta for his welding skills; my wife Casey and my kids Eva and Ivy for all their support